Prague, Czech Republic – The Czech government approved earlier this week plans to send additional troops to Africa’s Sahel region to take part in the France-led Barkhane counter-terrorism operation.
According to a statement by the Defense Ministry, the Czech Republic plans to send 60 troops to Mali, Niger and Chad.
“The proposal will now be submitted to the Parliament of the Czech Republic”, Defense Minister Lubomir Metnar (ANO) said. “If it is approved, we will have a mandate to engage in Operation Barkhane with a maximum of 60 persons with effect until December 31, 2022”.
The cost of the Czech Republic’s involvement in the counter-insurgency mission is estimated at some 600 million Kc (around €24 million), according to Defense Ministry spokesperson Marek Vala.
The 60 additional troops, who are mainly due to operate out of Mali and the Barkhane headquarters in Chad’s capital of N’Djamena, will join some 120 Czech soldiers already deployed in Mali as part of the European Union Training Mission (EUTM Mali), of which the Czech army will assume command for six months later this year. Five Czech soldiers are also deployed in the UN’s MINUSMA non-combat mission in Mali.
In 2013, France launched the Operation Serval in Mali, which evolved into Operation Barkhane the following year, a counter-terrorism mission involving some 4,500 French troops in the Sahel region, leading counter-insurgency operations in the West-African countries of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso.
A total of 38 French soldiers have been killed since the intervention began nearly six years ago.
As part of the expansion of Operation Barkhane, which already receives logistical support from a number of European countries, Paris has been trying for months to build up support for the launch, planned for later this year, of the Task Force Takuba, with the declared goal to “assist and advise Malian partner forces and accompany them in combat operations”.
The Czech Republic is the second EU country to announce it will take part in the new task force, after Estonia also pledged to be involved in the counter-terrorism mission in Sahel last November.
Earlier this month, French President Emmanuel Macron and leaders of the G5 Sahel States announced they were bringing cooperation between Barkhane and local armed forces to a new level and will start operating under joint command in the tri-border zone.
Overall, roughly 600 Czech soldiers are currently involved in military missions abroad in 20 foreign states, according to Radio Prague.
Main photo credit: France’s État-Major des Armées